A Plan for College Success

I pushed open the door to our homeroom class. "Good morning, Mrs. Ellison. Can Nick and I ask you a few questions about preparing for college?"

"Of course." Mrs. Ellison, our homeroom teacher, looked up from her computer and smiled at us. "I'm glad you two are thinking ahead."

"We're wondering how you'd advise us to prepare for college, even though we have a couple of years yet."

"Good planning!" Mrs. Ellison smiled and nodded. "I think I'd make English classes a big priority."

"Ugh. I don't like all that grammar and sentence-structure stuff, though."

Nick agreed. "Yeah, not fun."

"Most people don't enjoy English courses," Mrs. Ellison said, "so you're not alone. However, much of your college work will involve writing research papers, reports, book reviews and essays. These require a thorough knowledge of English. You'll be graded not only on your papers' contents but also on the construction of sentences and paragraphs."

"Mm. Well, thanks," I said, starting to turn away.

"Maybe you're right," Nick's remark surprised me.

"Talk with your English teacher and get his advice," Mrs. Ellison said. "I'm sure you'll be glad you did."

"Thanks for the idea." Nick smiled at Mrs. Ellison and then turned to me. "Let's go see him during our lunch hour and hear what he has to say."

"Okay," I said, but I wasn't excited about making English a priority for the next couple years.

After we ate and chucked our lunch bags into the trash, we found our English teacher, Mr. Mason, in the teacher's staffroom talking football with Coach Johnson. Nick poked his head through the doorway and asked Mr. Mason if we could talk with him when he was free.

After a few minutes, Mr. Mason joined us in the hall. "What's up, guys?"

Nick took the lead. "We're already thinking about preparing for college," he said. "Mrs. Ellison, our homeroom teacher, suggested we talk to you. She thinks we need to concentrate on our English classes to prepare for college."

"Good for you guys!" Mr. Mason gave us high-fives. "She's right, you know. College will require a lot of written work. If you learn how to write good sentences and effective paragraphs and craft great term papers in high school, you'll help yourselves do well in college."

"But all that English stuff is so boring," I said with a groan.

"Sadly, it's true," Mr. Mason said. Then he added, "I guess it depends on how well you want to do in the future. A high grade point average in college will help you find a job once you graduate." He turned to me. "You do want a good job, don't you?"

"Of course I do."

"Well, making English a priority now will help you later."

"If you say so," I said, "but I don't think I'm going to like this."

"Life's that way. Adults always have to do some things they don't enjoy." Mr. Mason gave my shoulder a friendly swat.

Nick and I agreed to give it a try, although I frowned rather reluctantly. "I don't know about this," I said as we turned away.

"Oh, and here's another thing you can do," Mr. Mason called after us. We turned back. "Make a list of your strengths in one column and your weaknesses in another."

I groaned. "I'd have a lot more weaknesses than strengths. Why do that?"

"So you can work to strengthen your weaknesses."

My jaw dropped a bit and I thought about it for a moment. "Yeah, I suppose it's a good idea."

"And listing your strengths will encourage you while you work on the weaknesses." Mr. Mason smiled. "I did that in high school, and it really helped me."

"Really?" Nick and I looked at each other.

"Yes, it did. Taking learning seriously while you're in high school is great preparation for a rewarding experience in college."

"Thanks, Mr. Mason."

As we headed to our next class, I said to Nick, "Guess what weakness goes at the top of my list."

Nick grinned. "Maybe English? Mine, too. But tackling it now may turn it into a strength by the time we graduate."